Bells are one of the most essential elements of an Orthodox
Church. In the "Order of the Blessing of Bells" we read, "So let
all that hear them ring, either during the day or at night, be inspired to the
glorification of Thy saints." Church-bell ringing is used to:
Summon the faithful to
the divine services.
Express the triumphal
joy of the Church and Her divine services.
Announce to those not
present in the church the times of especially important moments in the
In addition, in some cites in Old Russia, bells
summoned the people to gatherings. Also, bells were used to guide those lost in
bad weather, and announced various dangers or misfortunes such as fires or
floods. In days of peril to the nation they called the people to her defense.
Bells proclaimed military victories and greeted those returning from the field
of battle. Thus bells played a great part in the life of the Russian people.
Bells were usually hung in special belltowers constructed over the Entry to a
church or beside it.
Bells did not come into use immediately after the
appearance of Christianity. In the Old Testament Church, in the Temple in Jerusalem, the faithful were summoned to services not with bells,
but with trumpets. In the first centuries of Christianity, when the Church was
persecuted by the pagans, Christians had no opportunity to openly call the
faithful to services. At that time, they were secretly summoned either by one
of the deacons or special messengers, or sometimes the bishop himself at the
end of a service would reveal the time and place of the next one.
Following the cessation of persecutions in the
fourth century, various means came into use to summon the faithful. More
specific means were found in the sixth century when the sound of boards or iron
hoops, beaten with hammers, summoned the faithful. Eventually the most perfect
means of calling the faithful to the services was devised, pealing bells.
The first bells, as is well known, appeared in Western Europe.
There is a tradition by which the invention of bells is ascribed to St.
Paulinus the Bishop of Nola (411) at the end of the fourth or the beginning of
the fifth century. Several versions of this tradition exist. In one, St.
Paulinus saw some field flowers in a dream, daffodils, which gave forth a
pleasant sound. When he awoke the bishop ordered bells cast, which had the form
of these flowers. But, evidently, St. Paulinus did not introduce bells into the
practice of the Church, since neither in his works nor in the works of his
contemporaries are bells mentioned. Only in the beginning of the seventh
century did the Pope of Rome, Sabinian, successor to St. Gregory the Dialogist,
succeed in giving bells a Christian significance. From this period, bells began
gradually to be used by Christians, and in the course of the eighth and ninth
centuries in Western Europe, bells properly became part of Christian liturgical
In the East, in the Greek Church, bells came into
use in the second half of the ninth century, when in 865, the Doge of Venice,
Ursus, gave the Emperor Michael a gift of twelve large bells. These bells were
hung in a tower near Hagia Sophia Cathedral. But bells did not come into
general use among the Byzantines.
In Russia, bells appeared almost simultaneously with the reception
of Christianity by St. Vladimir (988 A.D.). Wooden boards and metal hoops
beaten with hammers were also used and still are in some monasteries. But strangely
enough, Russia took bells not from Greece from whence she received Orthodoxy, but from Western Europe.
The very word kolokol comes from the German word "glocke." The
Slavonic word is kampan which comes from the Roman province
of Campania where the first bells, made of bronze, were cast.
Initially the bells were small, and each church had only two or three.
In the fifteenth century special factories for
bell casting appeared, where bells of huge proportions were made. In the bell
tower of Ivan the Great in Moscow, for example, are the "Everyday"
bell weighing 36,626 pounds; the bell "reyute" weighing 72,000
pounds; and the largest bell, called "Dormition," which weighs around
The largest bell in the world at present is the
"Tsar Bell." It stands on a stone pedestal at the base of the bell tower of
Ivan the Great. There is no equal to it in the world, not only
in dimension and weight, but in the fine art of casting. The "Tsar
Bell" was poured by Russian masters Ivan and Mikail Matorin, father and
son, in 1733-1735. Material for the "Tsar Bell" was taken from its
predecessor, a gigantic bell which had been damaged in a fire. This bell
weighed 288,000 pounds and was cast by the master craftsman, Alexander
Grigoriev, in 1654. To the 288,000 pounds of base metal was added more than
80,000 pounds of alloy. In all, the total weight of the Tsar Bell is 218
American tons. The diameter of the bell is 6 meters, 60 centimeters, or 21
feet, 8 inches.
This amazing product of casting was never
successfully hung for it was severely damaged in a terrible and devastating
fire in 1737. Still in its casting form on a wooden scaffolding, it is not
known whether or not it was ever hung from this scaffolding. When the wooden
scaffolding caught fire, they started to throw water on it. The red hot bell
developed many large and small cracks due to the extreme change in temperature,
and a large piece, weighing 11,000 kilograms (11.5 tons), fell from the bell.
After the fire, the "Tsar Bell" lay in
its casting form for a whole century. In 1836, the bell was lifted out and
placed on a stone pedestal, the project of the architect A. Montferrand, the
builder of St. Isaacís Cathedral and the Alexander Column in Petersburg. It stands on this pedestal now with the fallen piece of
the bell leaning at the foot of the pedestal. Such is the fate of the largest
bell in the world, the "Tsar Bell," which was never rung.
The largest working bell is the
"Dormition" bell, located in Moscow, at the bell tower of Ivan the
Great. Its pealing gave the signal to begin the festive ringing of the bells of
all the Moscow churches on Pascha night. Thus, the Russian Orthodox people
loved the ringing of the church bells and enriched the craft with their
innovation and art.
The distinguishing quality of Russian bells is
their sonority and melodiousness. This is attained by various techniques:
An exact proportion of
bronze and tin, often with silver added, the proper alloy.
The height of the bell
and its width, the right proportions.
The thickness of the
walls of the bell.
The correct hanging of
The correct composition
of the tongue and its manner of being hung in the bell.
Russians call the clapper, the tongue. The Russian
bell is distinguished from the Western European bell in that it is fixed in
position, and the clapper moves and strikes the sides of the bell, which
produces the sound. It is characteristic that the Russian people call the
movable part of the bell the "tongue," enabling the bell to have a
living voice and trumpet. Truly, with what other name, if not a talking one,
can one call the bell?
On the days of great feasts the sound of the bell
reminds us of the blessedness of Heaven. On the days of great saints, it
reminds us of the eternal repose of the dwellers of Heaven. During the days of
Holy Week, it reminds us of our reconciliation with God through Christ the
Saviour. On the days of Bright Week, it proclaims the victory of life over
death and the eternal, endless joy of the future life in the Kingdom
Is it not a mouth that speaks when the bell tells
us of each passing hour, and reminds us of the passage of time and of eternity
when there should be time no longer (Rev. 10:6).
Announcing the glory of the name of Christ, day
and night, from the heights of a church of God, the sound of bells reminds us
of the words of the Lord, the Pantocrator, spoken through the Old Testament
Prophet Isaiah, / have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall
never hold their peace day nor night (Is. 62:6). It is not by chance that
pagans, when they heard the sound of bells, often said, "that is the voice
of the Christian God."
The sound of one church bell is something exalted
and solemn, and if there are several bells in harmony with each other, then a
more magnificent sonority is sounded. A moving peal of bells acts upon our
inner feelings and awakens our souls from spiritual slumber. What grieved,
despondent, and often irritating tones are evoked by church bells in the soul
of an evil and impious apostate. The feelings of discomfort and weariness of
soul are evoked by the sound of the bell in the soul of a perpetual sinner. But
in the soul of the faithful, who seek peace with God the Lord, the church bell
awakens a bright, joyous, and serene disposition. Thus a person can define the
state of his soul by means of the sound of bells.
One can bring forth examples from life, when a
man, exhausted from fighting lifeís bitterness, and fallen into despair and
despondency, decides to take his own life. Then he hears the church bell. Preparing
to commit suicide, he trembles, becomes afraid, and involuntarily guards
himself with the sign of the Cross. It recalls the Heavenly Father, and new,
good feelings arise in his soul, and the one who was perishing forever returns
to life. Thus, in the strokes of a church bell there is hidden a wonderful
power, which penetrates deeply into the soul of mankind.
Having loved the sound of the church bell,
Orthodox people associate it with all their festive and sorrowful events.
Therefore, the sound of the Orthodox belltower serves not only to indicate the
time of divine services, but also to express joy, grief and festivity. Various
forms of bell ringing, each with their own name and meaning, developed to
express this range of feelings.
The Forms of Bell Ringing and
The manner of church bell ringing is divided into
two basic forms: 1. the measured ringing of the bell to announce church
services, and 2. ringing of all the bells.
Ringing to Announce Church Services.
By the "announcement of church services"
is meant the measured strokes of one large bell. By this sound, the faithful
are called together to the temple of God for divine services. In Russian it is
known as the "Good news bell" because it announces the blessed, good news
of the beginning of divine services.
The "good news peal" is accomplished
thus. First there are produced three widely spaced, slow, prolonged strokes, so
as to sustain the sound of the bell, followed by measured strokes. If the bell
is very heavy or of great dimensions, the measured strokes are produced by the
swinging of the clapper from side to side of the bell. If the bell is of medium
size, then its clapper is drawn sufficiently close to the rim by a rope. The
rope is attached to a wooden foot pedal, and with pressure from the
bell-ringerís feet, the sound is produced.
The "good news peal" is subdivided in
turn into two types:
1) The usual or hourly peal, produced with the
2) The lenten or occasional peal, produced on the
next largest bell on weekdays of the Great Fast.
If the church has several large bells, as is
usually the case in cathedrals or large monasteries, then the size of the bells
corresponds to their significance: 1) the holiday bell, 2) the Sunday bell, 3)
the polyeleos bell, 4) the daily bell, and 5) the fifth, or small bell. Usually
in parishes there are no more that two or three large bells.
The ringing of all the bells is subdivided as
1) Trezvon (Peal) ó thrice-sounded, multiple bell
ringing. This is the simultaneous ringing of all the bells, then a brief pause,
a second ringing of all the bells, again a brief pause, and a third ringing of
all the bells, i.e., a simultaneous ringing of all the bells three times, or a
ringing in three refrains.
2) Dvuzvon ó twice rung. This is the simultaneous
ringing of all the bells twice, in two refrains.
3) Perezvon (Chain Ringing) ó this is the ringing
of each bell in turn, with either one or several strokes of each bell,
beginning with the largest to the very smallest, and then repeating several
4) Perebor (Toll) ó This is the slow, single peal
of each bell in turn, beginning with the smallest to the largest, and after the
stroke on the largest bell all the bells are immediately struck together; then
this is repeated several times.
The Use of the Bells and its
Bells For All-night Vigil.
1) Before the beginning of the All-night Vigil ó
the "good news peal," which concludes with the simultaneous ringing
of all the bells, or the trezvon.
2) At the beginning of the reading of the Six
Psalms comes the twice-rung, simultaneous peal, the dvuzvon. The dvuzvon
announces the beginning of the second part of the All-night Vigil ó Matins. It
expresses the joy of the Resurrection of Christ, the incarnation of the Second
person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord, Jesus Christ. The beginning of Matins, as
we know, recalls the Birth of Christ, and begins with the doxology of the
angels in their revelation to the shepherds of Bethlehem, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good
will among men.
In popular usage, the twice-rung bell at the
All-night Vigil is called the second-bell (the second bell peal after the
beginning of the All-night Vigil).
3) At the time of the singing of the polyeleos,
before the reading of the Gospel, the trezvon, the thrice performed,
simultaneous ringing of all the bells, is rung, expressing joy in celebrating
At the Sunday All-night Vigil, this ringing
expresses the joy and festivity of the Resurrection of Christ. In some
localities it is performed at the time of the chanting, "In that we have
beheld the Resurrection of Christ..." Customarily in guide books, this
peal is called the "bells before the Gospel."
In popular usage, the trezvon in the All-night
Vigil (the bells before the Gospel) is called the "third ringing."
4) At the beginning of the Song of the Most-holy
Theotokos, "My soul doth magnify the Lord...," occurs a short good
news peal, composed of nine strokes of the large bell (customary in Kiev and in
all of Little Russia).
5) On Great Feasts, at the conclusion of the
Vigil, the trezvon occurs.
6) At Pontifical services, after every All-night
Vigil, the trezvon is rung, accompanying the bishop as he leaves the church.
The Bells for the Liturgy.
Before the beginning of the reading of the Third
Hour, the good news peal for the Liturgy is rung, and at the end of the Sixth
Hour, before the beginning of the Liturgy, the trezvon.
If two Liturgies are served (an early one and a
later one), then the good news peal for the early Liturgy is simpler and slower
than the one for the later Liturgy, and it is customarily done not using the
At Pontifical divine services, the good news peal
for the Liturgy begins at the indicated time. As the bishop approaches the
church, the trezvon is rung. When the bishop enters the church, the trezvon
ceases and the good news peal resumes and continues throughout the vesting of
the bishop. At the end of the Sixth Hour, the trezvon is rung again. Then,
during the Liturgy, the good news peal is rung at the beginning of the
Eucharistic Canon, the most important part of the Liturgy, to announce the time
of the sanctification and the transformation of the Holy Gifts.
According to T.K. Nikolsky, in the book Ustav
Bogosluzhenia, it is said that the good news peal before "It is Meet
...," begins with the words, "It is meet and right to worship the
Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit ...," and continues until the
chanting of "It is truly meet to bless Thee, the Theotokos...." It is
also the instruction in the Book No-vaia Skrizhal by Archbishop Benjamin
(published in S.P.B., 1908, p. 213.). In practice, the good news peal for
"It is meet..." is shorter, composed of twelve strokes. In southern Russia the good news peal for "It is meet..." is
performed customarily before the beginning of the Eucharistic Canon, at the
time of the chanting of the Creed (12 strokes, 1 stroke for each clause of the
Creed). The good news peal before "It is meet...," according to the
custom of Russian churches was introduced during the time of Patriarch Joachim
of Moscow (1690 A.D.), similar to the custom of the West, where they ring
during the words "Take, eat..."
At the conclusion of the Liturgy on all Great
Feasts the trezvon is rung. Also, after every Liturgy served by a bishop the
trezvon is rung to accompany the bishop as he leaves the church.
On the feast of the Nativity, the trezvon is rung
all the day of the feast, from Liturgy until Vespers. Also, on the feast of the
Resurrection of Christ ó Pascha.
The good news peal before Bright Matins begins
before the All-night Vigil and continues until the Procession of the Cross, and
the festive trezvon is rung from the beginning of the Procession of the Cross
to its end and even longer.
Before the Paschal Liturgy, the good news peal and
the trezvon are rung. During the Paschal Liturgy itself, at the time of the
Gospel reading, the perezvon is rung, with seven strokes on each bell (the
number seven expresses the fullness of the glory of God). This festive ringing
of bells signals the homily on the Gospel of Christ in all languages. Upon
completion of the reading of the Gospel, the perezvon concludes with the
joyful, victorious trezvon.
During all of Bright Week, the trezvon occurs
every day, from the end of the Liturgy until Vespers. On all Sundays from Pascha
until Ascension, after the Liturgy the trezvon is rung.
On the feast day of a church, at the conclusion of
the Liturgy before the beginning of the Moleben, the short good news peal and
the trezvon are rung, and at the conclusion of the Moleben, the trezvon.
Whenever there is a procession around the church,
the trezvon is rung.
Before the Royal Hours, the good news peal is
usually rung on the large bell, and before the Great Holy Week Hours, the
Lenten good news peal in rung on the small bell. As at the Royal Hours, so also
at the Great Holy Week Hours before each Hour the bell is rung. Before the
Third Hour the bell is struck three times, before the Sixth Hour, six times and
before the Ninth Hour, nine times. Before the Typica and Great Compline, twelve
times. If during the fast a feast day is celebrated, then for the Hours they do
not strike separately for each Hour.
On Matins of Good Friday, when the Twelve Gospel
Readings of the Lordís Passion are read, besides the usual good news peal and
trezvon at the beginning of matins, there is a good news peal before each
Gospel reading: before the first Gospel reading ó one stroke on the large bell,
before the second gospel reading ó two strokes, before the third Gospel reading
ó three strokes, etc.
Upon conclusion of Matins, as the faithful carry
the "Holy Thursday fire" to their homes, the trezvon is rung.
Use of the Perezvon and its Meaning.
At Vespers on Great Friday, before the elevation
of the Burial Shroud, at the time of the singing of the last sticheron of the
aposticha, a slow perezvon, one stroke on each bell, from the largest to the
the smallest, is performed. Upon the placement of the Shroud in the center of
the church, the trezvon is rung.
At Matins for Great Saturday, beginning with the
chanting of the "Great Doxology" and continuing through the
procession with the Shroud around the church, the perezvon is rung the same for
the carrying back of the Shroud, a slow perezvon, one stroke on each bell from
the largest to the smallest. When they pick up the Shroud in the middle of the
church and go with it to the Royal Gates, then the trezvon is rung.
The slow perezvon with one stroke on each bell,
beginning with the largest, most powerful sound, and ascending by degrees to
the most delicate and highest pitched tone of the small bell, symbolizes the
"outpouring (in terms of humility)" of our Lord Jesus Christ for our
salvation, as we sing, for example, in the fourth irmos of the Fifth Tone:
"Foreseeing Thy divine self-emptying upon the Cross..."
As established by centuries of practice by the
Russian Orthodox Church, in the central part of Russia such a perezvon could be performed only twice a year, on
Good Friday and Great Saturday, the day of the Crucifixion of the Lord and His
burial. Experienced bell-ringers usually follow this custom strictly and do not
permit otherwise, so that the sorrowful sound pertaining to the Lord, our
Saviour, would be reserved and distinct from the funeral bells of simple,
mortal and sinful people.
At Matins on the day of the Elevation of the Cross
of the Lord, during the week of the Veneration of the Cross, and on the first
of August, before carrying Cross out of the Altar at the time of the chanting
of the "Great Doxology," the perezvon occurs, during which they slowly
strike three times (in some places, one time) on each bell from the largest to
the smallest. When the Cross is carried to the middle of the church and placed
on the analogion, the trezvon is rung.
Similarly to the perezvon, but faster and in quick
succession, seven or three times on each bell, the bell is rung before the
little blessing of water. At the time of the immersion of the Cross in the
water, the trezvon is rung.
As before the blessing of water, the perezvon
occurs before the ordination of a bishop. In general, the perezvon is quick,
but sometimes on each bell there is a festive peal. In several places, such a
perezvon is performed before the beginning of the Liturgy on the feast day of
the church, or in other instances, for example, as we indicated above, during
the reading of the Paschal Gospel.
The Use of the Perebor and its Meaning.
The perebor, otherwise known as the funeral bell,
expresses grief over the dead. It is used, as we explained above, in the
reverse order of the perezvon. That is, slowly they stroke one time on each
bell from the smallest to the largest, and after that they strike all the bells
simultaneously. This mournful, funeral perebor must conclude with a short
trezvon, expressing the joyous Christian faith in the resurrection of the dead.
In view of the fact that in several guides on bell
ringing, one is instructed not to play a trezvon at the funeral service of the
dead, and as this directive does not correspond to church practice, we will
take this opportunity to give some explanation.
The slow perebor ring of the bells, from the
smallest to the largest, symbolizes a manís growing up on earth, from small
stature to maturity and strength, and the single, simultaneous strike on all
the bells signifies that the earthly life of man is stopped by death, because
of which all that is acquired by man in this life is left behind. As this is
expressed in the hymns of the funeral service, "All mortal things are
vanity and exist not after death. Riches endure not, neither does glory
accompany on the way; for when death comes, all these things vanish
utterly" (or as in another hymn, "yet one moment only, and death
shall supplant them all"). Therefore, to the immortal Christ we cry,
"Give rest to the one who has passed away, in the abode of those who rejoice."
The second part of the hymn directly speaks of the joy of the future life with
Christ. This joy is also expressed with the trezvon after the sorrowful
In the journal Pravoslavnaia Rusí (Orthodox
Russia), Archbishop Averky, according to the custom of the occasion at funerals
and Pannykhidas for the deceased, gave the soundly based explanation which,
without doubt pertains to the bells as well. "According to our Orthodox
custom, to perform Pannykhidas and funerals, bright clothing is put on. The
custom of celebrating these orders of worship in black clothing came to us from
the West, and is absolutely uncharacteristic of the spirit of Orthodoxy.
Nevertheless, it is widespread among us. So much so, that now it is not easy to
eradicate. For true Christians, death is a passage to better life, joy and not
sorrow, as is beautifully expressed in the moving third kneeling prayer read at
Vespers on the day of Pentecost, "Because there is no death, O Lord, for
Thy servants when we depart from the body and come to Thee, our God, but a
change from things very sorrowful unto things most beneficial and most sweet,
and unto repose and gladness."
The trezvon, reminiscent of the Resurrection,
gracefully acts in the soul of the Christian believer, grieving over the
separation from the deceased, and gives it internal consolation. To deprive the
Christian of such comfort has no basis, the more so since this trezvon has
fundamentally entered into the life of the Russian Orthodox people and has
become an expression of their faith. In this way, as the body of the deceased
is brought to the funeral in the church, there is the mournful perebor, and as
it is being carried into the church, the trezvon. After the funeral, upon
carrying the deceased out of the church, there again occurs the perebor,
concluding also with the trezvon.
During the funerals and burials of priests,
hieromonks, archimandrites and bishops, a slightly different perebor is
performed. First they strike the large bell twelve times, then follows the perebor;
again the twelve strokes on the large bell, and again the perebor, etc. As the
body is brought into the church, the trezvon is rung; also during the reading
of the prayer of absolution ó the trezvon. During the removal of the body,
again the perebor is indicated, and upon the placing of the body in the grave,
the trezvon occurs. In other places, the bells are rung according to the usual
custom for funerals.
In the Chinovnei Knige, it is said that during the
removal of Patriarch Joachim, there was a good news peal, alternately on all
the bells (Vrem. Mask. Obshch. 1st. i drevi. 1852, vol. 15, p.22).
Not long ago we had occasion to learn that there
exists still one other form of perebor. It is one stroke on each bell, but
beginning with the largest to the smallest, and then a simultaneous striking of
all the bells. This was put on a record, Rostovskie Zvoni (Rostov Bells),
recorded in Rostov on 1963. In practice we have not heard such ringing, and
there are no directions about them. Therefore we are unable to indicate where
and when this pattern is used.
There also exists the so-called "beautiful
ringing" on all the bells. The "beautiful ringing" exists at
cathedral gatherings, monasteries, wherever they have a large collection of
bells. The "beautiful ringing" is composed of several bellringers in
a company of five or more people. The beautiful ringing occurs on the great
feast days, at festive and joyful events of the Church, and also for greeting
the bishop of the diocese.
It is also necessary to mention the "alarm
bell," which serves a social purpose. By "alarm bell" is meant
the uninterrupted, frequent strokes on the large bell. The "alarm
bell" is used to alert people in the case of fire, flood, mutiny, invasion
by an enemy, or some other form of social calamity.
The "vetchevnie" bell was used to call
all the inhabitants of ancient Novgorod and Pskov to the vetche, or popular
Victories over the enemy and regiments returning
from the fields of battle were announced with the joyous, festive trezvon on
all the bells.
In conclusion, we note that Russian bellringers
attained high mastery of bell ringing and were famous throughout the world.
Many tourists came from Europe, England and America to the feast of Pascha in
Moscow, to hear the Paschal bells.
On the "Feast of Feasts" in Moscow, the bells of all its churches, numbering more than 5,000,
were rung. Thus, whoever heard the Paschal bells of Moscow would never forget it. It was "a unique
symphony," as writer I. Shmelov expressed it. This powerful, festive sound
permeated to Heaven a victorious hymn to the Resurrection of Christ.
(The basic description of the order of bell
ringing is laid down for the most part in Practice of the Russian Church in
Central Russia. The description of practice was compiled and confirmed by the
many events and daily practices of the Russian Orthodox people, by the very
life of the Orthodox Church.).
In our own time of weak faith the dark powers of
evil approach, battling against the righteousness of God. We, the faithful,
must remember especially that none other than the monastics, by prayer and
fasting, appear as the vanguard of the battle against the powers of evil. For
the Lord Himself said, This kind (satanic spirit) goeth not out but by prayer
and fasting (Matt. 17:21). We must love these zealots of Christ, and we must
help them by all means, begging their spiritual help.
We ourselves, knowing the great power of prayer
and fasting, must pray every day and fast to the best of our abilities, in
order to maintain fervor, to fortify our hearts toward good and holy
resolutions, and to generate in ourselves spiritual strength, so that with
Godís help we may withstand the intrigues of the Devil.
In the words of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow,
"Let us not be deceived by the attractive appearance which ordinary,
worldly honor possesses; let us not be enemies of the faith, behave
scandalously, but let us do good deeds, and turn away from injurious
overindulgence. In short, to fulfill only the most necessary ostensible obligations
of a man and a member of society is to mearly whiten our sepulchers, which in
the meantime, are within full of dead menís boms (Matt. 23:27).
"How many so-called, wise men of this world
suffered and tortured themselves and others by striving to follow the good
life?" says the same hierarch. "And who did they make blessed? Of
course, their works are not for the understanding and activity of children,
because their own understanding never completely escapes their struggle with
doubts; their personal deeds do not correspond to their teaching (i.e., they
themselves do not practice what they preach). Here we see manís insignificant
importance. In contrast to this, there is the great simplicity of God. God does
not say much. In His simple commandments are set forth the teaching of life,
which for the wise are profoundly significant, and for children are easily
understood. Godís simplicity enlightens the ignorant and guides the educators;
it purifies the souls of men and preserves civilization; it organizes temporal
life and recreates it for eternity."
In all this one must not forget that the
commandments of God will be active and redeeming for us only when Christian
love towards God and neighbor reigns in our hearts. The Lord Himself said, On
these two commandments, love for God and neighbor, hang all the law and the
prophets (Matt. ), that is, genuine and true life.
For, "It is possible to know true faith with
only the mind and the memory," says Archbishop Innocent, "but poor,
lifeless and fruitless is this knowledge. It is possible to know the true faith
only by directing it by the principle of life, but this knowledge, although
much higher than the first, and a necessity for perfection, is cold and dry;
instead of delight, it often produces the spirit of bondage to fear (Romans
8:15). Only the participation of a grace-filled heart makes the yoke of
self-renunciation easy and the burden of the commandments light (Matt. ). Only the lively sensation in the soul of the heavenly
and the divine links a man to Heaven and gives him a taste of the powers of the
world to come (Heb. 6:5). Only holy love produces real unity of man with God
and Christ, and therefore, a living faith and living hope."
Such living faith and hope, true life, we will
find if we are in the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Orthodox Church of Christ and
live the life of the Church, which is a unity of love; and in which invariably,
by the promise of God, dwells the Holy Spirit, sending down His Heavenly gifts
in the Mysteries of the Church, to strengthen us on the path of salvation.
Having such a priceless treasure, the Orthodox Church, we with full
consciousness of that great joy, join our voices to the voice of our
ever-memorable St. John of Kronstadt, whose many miracles witness to the truth
of his words, both during his lifetime and after his death. He writes, "O
Church of God, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic! You are so great, wise, true and
redeeming!... Glory to the Orthodox Church! Glory to Christ God, its Most-holy
Head, the only Head of the Church of God
on earth." Amen.
Holy Trinity Monastery 1993 /
Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission 2003
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)